Navigating sustainable choices
If you are going to build a green house, seems like you'd want some sort of gold star for the effort, right? That's where I was coming from when we started our project. Of course -- why not?
LEED, developed by the US Green Building Council, is the gold standard. What
started out as a means of encouraging, measuring and verifying
commercial building projects, it has since moved into residential
construction projects as well. I won't go into all of the details about
LEED, but it's a checklist-based system that offers guidance,
consulting, and how to lessen you building's impact on the environment
and create a healthier home in the long term. You, your architect, your
contractor and a LEED consultant work from checklists that guide you to
better choices. And then an independent verification and your home
becomes certified at whatever level it meets -- I believe the levels
are silver, gold and platinum.
Bottom line is I wasn't big on going after gold stars in school, and evidently I haven't changed much. We didn't go down this road. Looking
at it, LEED accreditation seemed expensive and cumbersome. There were
fees to pay, consultants to hire, and considerable extra time in
project management that would be needed by our contractor in order to
be in compliance. In the end, it seemed to me and my wife that what was
important was our intention. We figured that with every decision along
the way, we could look at our options, always ask the sustainability
questions about the proposed materials, look at alternatives, and make
the best decision we could, all things considered.
At the end of the project, I'm not sure we'll be able to look back and defintitvely answer the question, "how green is your home?" But who
cares? Building a green home is a thousand shades of gray. We've
learned that, if nothing else. Some people could look at our project
and be impressed with the decisions we made and the lengths we've gone
to. Others could look at it and decide that we didn't go far enough.
If we were planning to turn around and sell the house, we might have made a different call so that we could have the LEED tools and
certification to help us sell the house. But for us, all that really
matters is that we're satisfied with the decisions we made along the
way. And we are.
this is a great topic! and one which needs a lot of discussion in my opinion.
I am generally a strong proponent for LEED (or any other system) because it gives us a goal to shoot for. without it i have seen countless projects fall into the slippery slope realm of making compromises and ultimately falling short of initial project goals. The various rating systems, LEED included< help us avoid that scenario.
Regarding Lou's mind bending question of how a 7,500 sf home can be LEED certified, i have two comments: 1. certified is nothing...meet code and you are 90% there. 2. if the LEED certification was actually under LEED-H (for homes) then it means more than if it was under LEED-NC (new construction) - since LEED-H requires greater points to be acquired for homes over a certain size...and 7,500 sf is WAY out of the limits...so my guess is it was an old certification under LEED-NC. the new system would make that unlikely.